Oh boy, where do I start with this one? I have been a practicing witch since I was in junior high (now known as middle school, I suppose I’m getting old now). When I was younger, I was harassed. I was physically assaulted by my peers for it. I was verbally harassed to the point where I feared for my well being. At one point, a rumor became so vicious that I had students at the local college asking me (when I was 16) if I performed sexual acts for money.
When I was at college (an all women’s Catholic university), I found a degree of acceptance that boggled my mind. While there was some nastiness that I encountered as one of the two openly pagan people on campus, it all came from students. The staff and instructors at the university were all exceptionally professional and even helped me in my efforts to deepen my understanding of my own faith. I owe a great deal to the School Sisters of Notre Dame and I believe I will always hold them in high regard. While there was the risk that I could have been deemed as behaving in a manner unbecoming of a student and been invited to leave, this never arose in any situations I was in. Campus ministry actually encouraged myself and the other pagan (who happened to be my best friend shortly after we met) to publicly practice our faiths and educate others about our beliefs.
I have had some members of my extended family take hostile positions with respect to my differences in matters of faith. At one point, I was told that my beliefs made me morally as suspect as abusive parents. Fortunately, this happened before I had children and there was no nonsense like a phone call to the department of social services over it. I don’t talk to that relative except on the rare occasion we happen to be in the same area. Even then, I keep the topics on things like the weather. This attitude, however, was the reason why my Beloved and I had a civil ceremony when we got married rather then a handfasting. (And that was an adventure and a half of nonsense that I still wince when I think about it.)
Since I have been covering my head for religious reasons, I have encountered some friction from my neighbors. The ones who are immediately about me are tolerant but the ones in the larger community have had some unpleasant things to say. I confess with some disappointment, that I have refrained from wearing my scarves in certain styles because of the Islamophobic comments that have been made. While no one has physically threatened myself or my family, the memories of what I endured when I was younger makes me shy away from dealing people of that variety.
I have had people in local businesses become quite cold towards me when they see my pentacle. I don’t wear it as much as I did in the past because I am concerned about people causing problems for my children over it. It has lead me to very carefully consider the question of religious jewelry for my sons. While I hope that their peers are more interested in if they are going to play with them rather then what religion they practice, I can not say the same for the adults around us.
Because we live in a relatively ‘conservative’ neighborhood in the hinterlands of Western New York, I take a cautious approach to who and how I discuss matters of faith off-line. It is not unknown for people who do not fit the white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant mold to be subject to considerable social pressure. The folks who are Catholic seem to get less pressure then non-Christians because they are Christian. (Though some of my neighbors take the attitude that they are sub-par Christians because they’re not of a given protestant sect.) I suspect that it would be easier to be openly pagan in the city because of the element of anonymity that comes with such a large press of people.